Ulnar nerve injury
Ulnar nerve injury: Introduction
Ulnar nerve injury is a common injury that can result from a variety of causes and can lead to ulnar nerve dysfunction and difficulties with the functioning of the hand and wrist. Ulnar nerve injury can be the result of trauma or long-term compression of the ulnar nerve, a peripheral nerve that runs down the length of the arm.
The functions of the ulnar nerve are to transmit sensations from the little and ring fingers to the spinal cord and to control movements of many small muscles of the hand and some larger muscles in the forearm.
The ulnar nerve is frequently called the "funny bone". A minor blow to the elbow can cause temporary numbness and tingling down the arm, often referred to as "hitting the funny bone".
More serious ulnar nerve injury frequently occurs due to elbow fracture or elbow dislocation. In addition to sudden trauma, ongoing pressure or compression of the ulnar nerve can result in ulnar nerve injury. For example, long-term pressure on the palm, such as from endurance cycling, can cause ulnar nerve injury to the section of the nerve in the palm. The improper use of crutches can also compress the ulnar nerve.
Repetitive overuse of the hand or arm and repetitive stress injury can result in ulnar nerve compression and ulnar tunnel syndrome. Bending the elbow severely for long periods of time, such as while sleeping, can result in ulnar nerve entrapment. Certain conditions, such as arthritis and bone spurs, may also compress the ulnar nerve.
Ulnar nerve injury can lead to pain, numbness, or tingling in the ring and little fingers. More severe permanent complications may also occur. For additional symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of ulnar nerve injury.
Making a diagnosis of ulnar nerve injury begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms and the types of activities a person is performing that may lead to the disorder. A physical and neurological examination that focuses on the fingers, hands, wrists and arms is also done. This includes having the patient perform certain hand and arm movements to see if they result in pain or numbness.
Diagnostic testing may include special tests that test the nerves and muscles. These include an electromyography, which tests muscles movement, and a nerve conduction velocity test, which identifies how fast nerves conduct electrical impulses.
Medical testing may also include tests that can help determine any underlying medical disease or conditions that may be causing ulnar nerve injury. These include an elbow or wrist X-ray, which can reveal elbow fracture, bone spurs, arthritis, or wrist fracture. Imaging scans, such as CT and MRI may also be performed.
It is possible that a diagnosis of ulnar nerve injury can be missed or delayed because symptoms may be mild or similar to symptoms of other diseases and conditions, such as arthritis. For more information about disease and disorders that can mimic ulnar nerve injury, refer to misdiagnosis of ulnar nerve injury.
Treatment for ulnar nerve injury varies depending on the severity of symptoms, the presence of complications, a person's age and medical history, and the type of work and activities a person does. Treatment can reduce or eliminate symptoms and permanent complications, such as muscle wasting. Treatment options include modifying activities, orthopaedic devices, medication, occupational therapy and surgery. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of ulnar nerve injury. ...more »
Ulnar nerve injury:
Injury or damage to the ulnar nerve which runs down the length of the arm. The site of the damage is usually at the elbow or wrist. The nerve can be injured by a physical trauma (cut, broken elbow) or by certain activities such as cycling and throwing which cause repetitive mild stress on the ulnar nerve leading to inflammation. Ulnar nerve inflammation can result in neurological symptoms in the lower arm such as pain, weakness, tingling and paralysis of the muscles controlled by the nerve. The ulnar nerve is also known as the funny bone as it passes through the elbow joint. ...more »
Ulnar nerve injury: Symptoms
The types and severity of symptoms of ulnar nerve injury vary between individuals. Symptoms may include abnormal sensations, pain, weakness, burning, numbness and tingling of the ring and little fingers. There may also be weakness in the hand. Pain may be worse at night and certain activities, such as tennis, can make symptoms worse.
If ...more symptoms »
Ulnar nerve injury: Treatments
With early recognition and treatment, in many cases it is possible to reverse the symptoms of ulnar nerve injury before permanent damage occurs. The first step in treatment is prevention of the disorder. The most successful treatment and prevention plans use a multipronged approach aimed at relieving pressure and compression of the ulnar nerve.
This includes changing or limiting ...more treatments »
Ulnar nerve injury: Misdiagnosis
A diagnosis of ulnar nerve injury may be delayed or missed because early symptoms, such as hand weakness, pain and tingling often develop slowly over weeks or months. In addition, symptoms of ulnar nerve injury can be similar to symptoms of other conditions. These include aging, arthritis, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tenosynovitis. ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Ulnar nerve injury
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